One of our November guests, Jovin of Singapore, has posted a new thread about her dive trip to Gorontalo. Some of her great pictures taken in this hidden paradise are also available to view. You don’t have to be a Scubaboard member to access these links, just click the highlighted words in the text above.
Diving in Gorontalo is indeed an adventure as divers found this week. In addition to our regular list of marine marvels, we managed to find and photograph too many ghost pipefish to remember and two pairs of exceptional Ambon scorpionfish(Pteroidichthys amboinensis). Even the extremely rare and tiny Teddy bear crab made a mercurial appearance before somersaulting off its rock. With the depth of focus so small, the slight surge made the cute creature in the viewfinder impossible to photograph. This week proved once again that Gorontalo is a treasure house for diving in Sulawesi.
The coral wall at Honeycomb was streaming with ribbons of blue and yellow in the morning light.Thousands of Blue and Yellow fusiliers (Caesio teres) enveloped divers in Gorontalo this morning. Sometimes mixed with other fusilier species, these brightly colored fish poured down the wall then circled around for another sweep mid-wall. Evidently in search of food, these fish never left the reef during the course of the dive. Their size and numbers confirms that local fish stocks are high and healthy.
Divers enjoying pre-season diving in Gorontalo today got a glimpse of the result of months of bad weather that prevents people from fishing. We saw a pair of large Coronation lyre-tail grouper (Variola louti) swimming together. Usually seen only singly, we hope they are a breeding pair. Not far away was a juvenile Napol.ean wrasse. Both species were in places that Miguel’s Diving staff had not seen them previously. We hope this indicates that these large fish are expanding their ranges. The dive sites today are part of an area soon to be set aside for conservation, which will provide a secure nursery for future generations of these spectacular fishes.
In the midst of repairing Miguel’s Diving web site that was destroyed by a nasty hacker, we have also posted information and pictures for one of Gorontalo’s most distinctive dive sites: Sponge Wall. We have taken guests diving here for a couple of seasons but just found some time to create a new post. As a result to damage to our web site, the partial species list pages are not working. We will probably not be rebuilding these pages since it is proving extremely time consuming. But you can enjoy the Sponge Wall dive site before you dive here by selecting it under the Dive Site menu.
Fisher friends off a point where Miguel’s Diving offers some dive sites were catching large Yellowfin tuna for export early this morning. They were in the process of hauling in an 81-kilo tuna when a large shark decided it wanted breakfast. A tug of war ensued between the two fishermen and the shark. Eventually, men were able to haul their fish into their small outrigger canoe. The shark kept swimming around the boat looking for the missing tuna. It was a Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), measuring almost three meters long. Ironically, fishermen here call it the “Tuna-tail shark” because of the distinctive shape of its tail.
Sea pens are a special group of octocorals that live in sandy bottoms. A sea pen has a foot that keeps it anchored into the sand and an above ground rod that contains the feeding coral polyps. Many sea pens are beautifully branched, creating a shape reminiscent of a quill pen. Although most are nocturnal, some emerge from the sand during the day. One of Gorontalo’s muck sites is home to at least four very different species of sea pens. Only one of them appears in marine life books, the large Lemon sea pen (Pteroeides sp.).
A photograph of one sea pen caught the eye of a researcher friend, its maroon axis edged with white spicules. Miguel’s Diving staff knows right where a large patch of these emerge on overcast days. Of the sea pen species found here, this maroon one tends to host more marine life than others. To help our friend, we braved rough surf to locate these unusual soft corals. On the maroon ones, we found at least two species of commensal crabs hiding amongst the branches, a shrimp or two, and a very active maroon worm. With the surge being felt as deep as 20 meters, none of the pictures of the maroon beauties were in focus. Over the next two months, the winds will shift to the west, leaving calm seas and other opportunities to visit these beautiful corals.
Yesterday Miguel’s Diving staff went exploring a new location. Among the wonderful marine creatures seen during the dive was a very secretive and puzzling filefish. It turned out to be the cryptic and rarely seen Black-lined filefish (Pervagor nigrolineatus). She was hiding inside a black crinoid but soon disappeared into Gorontalo’s dense coral growth. Found only in the Western Pacific, this filefish has several color phases. One is greenish with distinct black lines; another is brown with a thick irregular, mid bodyline with a white line on its nose. The one is our photo has none of these characteristics and the white on her face is actually a bit of skin she is shedding. However, her elegant nose is distinctive to this species. The fish in the photograph is female.
Miguel’s Diving staff took a much-needed break today. Even though dive season doesn’t start again until November, diving is still possible in a couple of protected bays. With stiff winds already blowing from early morning, we decided to try the opposite side of one bay that provided a bit more shelter. Actually, we have never surveyed this location. Almost immediately upon descent we found an enormous sea fan next to one of Gorontalo’s famous Salvador Dali sponges. Although fish schools were numerous, churning waters and plankton rendered the visibility to only three meters. This is off-season! However, numerous sponge species plus the odd nudibranch or worm kept the camera low on memory.
For travelers flying Garuda Indonesia in August, the in-flight magazine has a four-page article on diving in Gorontalo. Singapore-based underwater photographer William Tan contributed the many pictures that appear. The article is in Indonesian.